“The Office” is everywhere in 2020. You see it online through internet memes. You’ll see it playing at your friend’s house for background noise.
The show — despite being 15 years old and having had its last episode back in 2013 — is still as popular as ever.
But it wasn’t always that way.
The show’s first season is one of the most poorly rated of its entire tenure, securing a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes (season 8 has a 44%, which is the lowest of the series). The Orlando Sentinel called it “painfully unfunny” and The Sunday Times said “there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right; like watching TV in a foreign hotel room and seeing a well-known TV show or movie that has been dubbed into the local language.”
I dug up our old review from the archives. Check out these savage quotes we had about the show.
There’s this one:
“Frankly, it’s sometimes so painful to watch you can just imagine remotes clicking all across the country. “
And then this one about Michael Scott and how his antics aren’t funny at all. In fact, our review hated the unsettling and cringeworthy vibe.
“Scott introduces his long-suffering secretary/receptionist, Pam (Jenna Fischer), with the comment, “If you think she’s cute now, you should have seen her a couple years ago.”
“In another episode, he decides it will be funny to convince her she’s being laid off. Scott is taken aback when Pam breaks into sobs; the viewer is left feeling unsettled and disturbed.
“This is supposed to be funny? It’s not good when a sitcom’s most memorable moments are those that induce pain.”
Our review even compared “The Office” to “Coupling,” a British comedy show from 2000 that focused on 20-year-olds and their relationships that was adapted for the American audiences and canceled after four episodes. Note: I’ve never heard of “Coupling.”
And this might be the most savage line of our original review:
“It’s just a gross miscalculation — an attempt to translate British humor that was basically doomed from the start.
“What might be funny for six episodes at a time (and a total of only 12) would be nothing short of torture over a 22-episode season, let alone multiple seasons.”
“The Office” ran for nine season. It had 201 episodes total.
But that’s the beauty of our review. It didn’t recognize the gem that “The Office” was, which resembles a lot of common feelings about the show. The first season — other than maybe “Diversity Day” — fails to capture the magic that made “The Office” such a cultural cornerstone in America.
Steve Carrell, who starred as Michael Scott on the show, worries it wouldn’t be as funny if it were to be brought back. He suggests “The Office” couldn’t exist in 2020.
“Because ‘The Office’ is on Netflix and replaying, a lot more people have seen it recently,” Carrell told Esquire. “And I think because of that there’s been a resurgence in interest in the show, and talk about bringing it back. But apart from the fact that I just don’t think that’s a good idea, it might be impossible to do that show today and have people accept it the way it was accepted 10 years ago. The climate’s different.”
But people — like our review — didn’t see it existing in 2004 either. Look what happened.